Your knowledge and skills are secondary to your ability to BS and joke your way through the day:
When I first entered the City and people asked me what the principal skills required on the trading floor were, I used to say: analytical ability, diligence and, of course, a ruthlessness Chairman Mao would have been proud of.
But, after my 12 year career, I can look back and say that it is, in fact, quick-witted playground banter that wins friends and influences the people you work with.
For an equity analyst, as I was then, gaining the respect of the salesmen and traders was vital because they would only trust you if they thought you could handle pressure – which they’d never do if they’d seen you crumble under a verbal onslaught. Although a well-timed ‘your mum’ joke when surrounded by a bunch of Essex boy traders may not have been the perfect indicator of your prowess under pressure, it was better than most.
Hence, we must pity the spoddy geek who has a great analytical brain, but blushes and stutters at the drop of a hat. Salesmen and traders alike will assume he’s a pointless loser who should stick to writing notes and e-mails and never be let loose on the client base. The pinhead will be condemned to a ‘back office’ role (and therefore ‘back office’ pay).
My advice to anyone going into the City today is to put away those financial theory books, and instead hone up your mickey-taking skills. That’s because my experience in the Square Mile suggests unequivocally that whilst you can take the stockbroker out of the playground, you most certainly cannot take the playground out of the stockbroker!
Geraint Anderson’s new book Just Business is out this week.